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On a voyage aboard the National Geographic Orion, experience the contrasting landscapes of Australia’s dramatic Kimberley coast and the tropical isles that edge the Banda and the Flores Seas. Explore natural wonders from the reefs of Rowley Shoals and towering King George Falls to the pink coral beaches of Komodo. Spot crocodiles in the Kimberley, look for humpbacks as we pass through one of their most important breeding areas, and observe the Komodo dragon in the wild. Get acquainted with the region’s rich culture and history as we examine Aboriginal cave art, and meet island peoples.
Explore the rugged coast of the Kimberley, from Bigge Island and the King George River region and intriguing Gwion Gwion rock art, to the ghostly abandoned settlement of Camden Harbour.
Don a mask and fins to snorkel or dive the remote and unspoiled coral reefs of Rowley Shoals and the Spice Islands.
Spot legendary Komodo dragons while hiking with park rangers in Indonesia’s world-renowned Komodo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Immerse yourself in the vivid colors and rhythms of local life during festivities and ceremonies in East Timor and the Indonesian isle of Sumbawa.
Itinerary - 18 Days
Days 1, 2, & 3 — U.S./Broome, Western Australia
Depart for Broome, cross the international date line and arrive on Day 3. An important port in the pearl trade, Broome is edged by tidal flats and endless white-sand beaches and characterized by a distinctly Asian flavor. Board the National Geographic Orion and take to the waters of the Indian Ocean. (D)
Days 4 & 5 — Rowley Shoals/At sea
Isolated in the Indian Ocean west of Australia, the three coral atolls known as Rowley Shoals harbor abundant marine life and untouched coral. Spend a day snorkeling and diving from the sand cays, encountering a dazzling array of species, from anemone fish to giant potato cod to shimmering schools of tuna. If weather permits, explore this pristine setting by sea kayak as well. Then enjoy a day at sea to relax on deck, attend talks by our experts, and get to know the ship. We’ll be sailing through the largest humpback nursery in the southern hemisphere at a time of year when the whales have come north from Antarctica to breed. (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Montgomery Reef and Raft Point
Arriving at high tide, you’ll see very little of Montgomery Reef. However, if conditions are right, the tide may drop rapidly away and a raging torrent of water will erupt, as miles of surrounding reef appear to slowly rise out of the ocean. A Zodiac will maneuver you into a channel in the reef as water cascades down on either side. It’s the perfect spot to watch cormorants, egrets and sandpipers forage for sea life trapped on the surface of the reef. Below the waterline, opportunistic sea turtles, reef sharks and many larger fish also take advantage of this feast. Next, we land by Zodiac at Raft Point, where we climb up to a saddle of rock that forms nothing short of a spectacular outdoor Aboriginal art gallery. The art is an account of the Wandjina clan on the ‘Great Fish Chase.’ (B,L,D)
Day 7 — Hunter River
This is one of the most scenic parts of the Kimberley coast, lined with green rainforests, mangroves, and soaring red cliffs. We will drop anchor near Naturalists Island - a stunning backdrop to our day's explorations. The Hunter River has many crocodiles and you may be lucky enough to see them on a Zodiac ride through the mangroves. For those wishing to explore some of the Kimberley's vast interior, an optional helicopter excursion over the spectacular terrain may be an option. (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Bigge Island
Tucked into Bigge’s lunar-like landscape of sculpted sandstone are cave systems filled with rock art that dates back through the ages. Follow guides into the caves to decipher scenes of Wandjina figures and what appear to be European ships and visitors smoking pipes. As we explore the rocky isle, keep an eye out for monjon rock wallabies and the endangered northern quoll, a small carnivorous marsupial. (B,L,D)
Days 9, 10, & 11 — King George River/Wyndham/At Sea
Drop anchor at the mouth of the King George River and ride Zodiacs up this waterway that weaves between nearly vertical canyon walls. Our destination is King George Falls, and at this time of year, after the wet season, we will be able to get right up close to the base of the falls, under towering red rock canyon walls.. If you wish, hike to the top of the falls and cool off in a freshwater rock pool. Then explore a bit of the Kimberley interior on a boat trip up the Ord River to Lake Argyle. The Ord River is one of the most stunning river systems in Australia. You’ll navigate a massive stretch of river between Kununurra and Lake Argyle (Ord River Dam) then view the lake from a scenic lookout. Follow with a visit to the historic Durack homestead, before returning to the port at Wyndham. Spend the next day sailing north to East Timor. Listen to informal talks from our staff, preparing us for the exciting days ahead. (B,L,D)
Day 12 — Jaco Island, East Timor
Our first stop in East Timor is the tiny, uninhabited island of Jaco, considered sacred by the Timorese. Today it is part of the Nino Konis Santana National Park and home to some of Timor’s endemic bird species: the dusky cuckoo-dove and the fawn-breasted whistler. Explore the island’s sparkling white-sand beaches, and go swimming, snorkeling, or diving in clear blue waters. (B,L,D)
Day 13 — Dili
Dili became a capital city in 2002, when East Timor was declared a sovereign nation. Since then, it has evolved into an international city where the modern meets the traditional and numerous cultures intermingle. Get to know this seaside city with a half day tour of the Cristo Rei status, Chega Museum, Santa Cruz cemetery, and local markets. Stop by a village craft market where merchants sell local wares including colorful woven fabrics called tais. (B,L,D)
Day 14 — Larantuka, Indonesia
As Dutch influence spread throughout the “East Indies” in the 17th century, Portuguese colonists from throughout the Spice Islands flocked to the Portuguese trading post of Larantuka on Flores Island. Today Larantuka is a picturesque seaside town with a strong Portuguese colonial character and spectacular views. Our visit will allow us to meet the local people and learn their history and customs. (B,L,D)
Day 15 — Komodo
Explore Komodo National Park, home to the world’s largest living lizard—the Komodo dragon, which can grow up to ten feet long and weigh 150 pounds. Learn about the conservation of these prehistoric giants from park rangers who join us on a hike to spot the lizards in their natural habitat. Then enjoy an afternoon of swimming, snorkeling, diving, or beachcombing at “Pink Beach,” named for the coral fragments that lend their color to the sand. (B,L,D)
Day 16 — Badas, Sumbawa
On the island of Sumbawa, villagers welcome us with a lively cultural display. Witness a traditional wedding ceremony and an exhilarating wild buffalo race through a rice paddy. (B,L,D)
Days 17 & 18 — Bali, Indonesia/U.S.
Disembark this morning on the enchanting island of Bali and transfer to the airport for your flight home, arriving the next day. (B)